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Q: That looks like a very serious warning, don't you want people to try this?
A: Actually I placed the warning to let people know that I don't want them to rush into using this without being aware of what they are doing

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Q: What exactly does this update do?
A: It updates the firmware inside the superdrive of certain powerbooks, which enable it to write at its true speed, 2X DVD-R, and 16X CD-R, as well as unlock the DVD-RW capability that was entirely missing.

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Q: What exactly is firmware anyway?
A: Complex components in computers, like cd/dvd drives, are like mini-computers themselves. They have a cpu chip, memory, and software to tell it how to function. That software is like your operating system. When you update/install a new one, you are changing the functionality. The firmware is this software that runs on your superdrive.

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Q: Why is it so dangerous to update?
A: The functionality that allows your drive to be upgraded is, itself, a part of the existing firmware. If the new firmware does not get written to your drive correctly, or it's corrupt, your drive will no longer function. There isn't really any way to fix this other than to get a new drive. This is why it's strongly recommended you are plugged into A/C power (so your battery isn't a concern) and you quit all program (so your computer is only working on the critical firmware writing phase).

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Q: Are these an Apple support update?
A: Absolutely not. Please do not contact Apple for support with this update.

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Q: What about my warranty? Will running this void it?
A: That's a good question and on the minds of many people. Unfortunately it's hard to tell for sure. There's two scenario's you must think about:
  • Something breaks that is not related to your superdrive, e.g. your screen
  • Your superdrive itself is malfunctioning

Well in the first case, the condition of your superdrive should NOT make a difference to Apple. If it does, then I guess you'll have to do so some arguing and straightening them out.

If your superdrive actually breaks, this MAY be an excuse Apple could use to not service your system.

That's the best answer I can come up with, until someone can verify what Apple's response is to this firmware update.

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Q: What systems can this be ran on?
A: Any macintosh system that has a Matshita (Panasonic) UJ-815 drive. They typically come with the 867Mhz/1Ghz Titanium Powerbook, 867Mhz 12" Powerbook and the 1Ghz 17" Powerbook. Newer Powerbooks (Sept 2003, before April 2004) do not need this because Apple has done "the right thing" and allowed the drive to be used to its full capability (while renaming it to UJ-816 so people with UJ-815's don't raise their voice at Apple).

-- UPDATE - Apr 17th, 2004 --

But there's other reasons people may be interested in these firmwares, including the fact that they have support for region-free behaviour. Yes, even the UJ-816 has a region-free counter-part available.

-- UPDATE - Sept 11th, 2004 --

I've received a lot of inquiries about the April 2004 powerbooks that come with UJ-825 drives. I'm currently working on getting a region-free firmware out. I know about the (non-region free) firmware for the PC. I'll update this page when i have some results.

-- UPDATE - March 29th, 2005 --

I am no longer working on the Matshita firmwares as I no longer have access to these drives. Please do not email me asking for 825, 835, 845, etc firmware, as I simply am not able to help you. These emails will be ignored (it would be impractical to respond to the tons of emails i keep getting).

It's been a pleasure helping the people I could, but I am no longer able to. Thanks for understanding.

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Q: What about other Apple systems like the iMac with CD/DVD burners?
A: Unfortunately, it's probably not possible to double their speed because the update on this page works on the premise that the drive was not being used to its full capacity. This was research and investigated thoroughly. The limitation was in the firmware so unless you have firmware for a device to restore its fuil capability, I'm afraid I can't be of much help to you.

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Q: Are these firmwares specific for my drive.
A: Yes and No. While the firmware that's distributed here is for UJ-815 drives, it was never officially released by Apple. I was able to bring it to the Mac community (with some help) and it seems to work well on our drives.

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Q: Has anyone else had success with this update?
A: I wouldn't have released it without doing tests myself.. Here are some results:
This is a clip from the System Profiler indicating the new Device Revision:
Roxio's Toast Titanium's Pre-Burning options for DVD-R burning..
Roxio's Toast Titanium's Pre-Burning options for CD-R burning..
iDVD 3 seems to still support the drive (and it should, the model hasn't changed, only the firmware revision)

But there have been a number of people reporting success on the message boards where it was originally released, as well.

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Q: Is there anyway to put the firmware back or copy it off?
A: I've seen PC firmware flashing utilities that first make a backup copy of your firmware before flashing it with new firmare. Unfortunately the Mac OS X Updater I'm using does not have this capability.

-- UPDATE - Aug 13th, 2003 --

Thanks to the overwhelming response, terrific support , I've successfully figured out how to patch the original updater to allow the firmware to be downgraded back to D0CB. I've made this patched version available at the bottom of the page.

-- UPDATE - Sep 22nd, 2003 --

I'm proud to announce the release of the downgrader available for 17" powerbooks.

This is not only good news for 17" powerbook owners who wish to have a safety net in case they decide to downgrade their powerbooks, but also great news to 12/15" powerbook owners who may not want to upgrade their superdrives to the max, but perhaps would like 16x burning speed (and supposedly DVD-RW support). It has been made available at the bottom of the page.

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Q: What about the Powerbook's released after September 2003 (but before April 2004)? (the Aluminum 15" and the newer 1 ghz 12" and 1.33 ghz 17" pb)?
A: This drive comes with the UJ-816, which already supports 2x dvd-r and 1x dvd-rw, as well as 16x cd-r. Therefore, this firmware is unnecessary on this version of the powerbook superdrive.

-- UPDATE - Apr 17th, 2004 --

I deeply apologize for the lack of updates, however it is necessary for reason I cannot disclose, the large wait will hopefully ensure the smooth, trouble-free release of the UJ-816 firmware, region free, as well as original version to restore to your superdrive to OEM revision.

Why did I wait till now? Like I said, I can't get into it, but today being a special day to me, makes it an appropriate occasion at least :) And while my friends and loved ones wish me all the best, on this, the day of my birth, I have this to offer all the fellow powerbook users out there: The long-anticipated UJ-816 firmware w/ optional region-free capabilities. This is my way of giving back.

Of course none of this would be possible without XVI's help and support. We all eternally owe him a debt of gratitude. :)

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Q: Apple says their powerbooks support 2x dvd-r and 16x cd-r though
A: Actually, this is only recently. As of September 16th, 2003 (but before April 2004), all new powerbooks shipping with superdrives, now use a drive model UJ-816, which I haven't actually heard of before anywhere. There has been speculation that they're really just using my firmware, but I find this hard to be true. :)

The new UJ-816 drive has a different firmware, revision DXJ3, which i've tried on my drive. It change my drive model to UJ-816 making me feel rather special, other than that, it seems to be similar to the available D101 at the bottom of the page (but with a slightly newer drive model number).

-- UPDATE - Dec 12th, 2003 --

It's been confirmed that the UJ-816 is really a UJ-815 in sheep's clothing, so to speak.

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Q: So how does all this work? What makes this firmware special?
A: According to the manufacturer, the superdrive in our Powerbooks is a DVD-Multi drive, which is supposed to support DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, as well as DVD-R.

But the firmware that ships with the UJ-815 drive from Apple, only support DVD-R.

The drive theoretically is also supposed to burn at higher speeds than shipped from Apple.

A lot of people believe this limitation is only in firmware, after all, the 17" PB can burn CD-R's at a max speed of 16x and has a different firmware version (DWCB) than the 12/15" powerbooks (D0CB/D0C4), which only burn CD-R's up to 8x.

But all the pre-sept 2003 powerbook superdrives have the same model drive, the UJ-815.

So basically I needed some way to "install" the firmware on the drive in its uncrippled form. Recently, I obtained a zip file with the PC version of a firmware flasher for our drives. I also got ahold of a Mac OS X updater, and replaced the embedded firmware with the newer firmware and tested it on my own system. It was a success, I tested it over a week before releasing it to a group of people on message boards.

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Q: Interesting, how did you figure out it was capable of more?
A: A lot of research, including some photos from a trade show in Japan, where the drive first debuted. The specs can be seen in the first picture
 

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Q: I don't understand Japanese, what's it say?
A: Neither do I :) But here's roughly how the Apple version of the drive compares to the original OEM version:
 Apple'sOEM
CD-ROM (reading) 24x24x
CD-R 8x16x
CD-RW 4x4x
DVD-ROM (reading) 8x8x
DVD-R 1x2x
DVD-RW N/A1x
DVD-RAM N/A2x

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Q: Why would I care about Panasonic? My powerbook says it's a Matshita.
A: They are the same company actually.

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Q: Why would Apple sell powerbooks with crippled drives?
A: There are a number of possible reasons. Apple has never issued a statement so we can only speculate:

  • They don't want it taking away sales from their Desktop models
  • Maybe there are plans to release an upgrade later on (which I highly doubt this far along)
  • They may want future powerbooks to have an advantage by not being crippled? Also, possibly they want the freedom to be able to change suppliers of the drives, which may not have the same capabilities.
  • Maybe it's because it shortens battery life more because more energy is needed to burn at a faster speed
  • More heat is generated when the drive writes media at faster speed, maybe the amount of heat being generated is more than their (probably liberal) tolerances?

Lately there seems to be a concensus that the extra heat is why it is crippled. Portables have a lot of electronics packed tightly together, and heat can become an issue. Burning at 1x DVDR or 8X CDR may be as hot as Apple wanted the powerbooks to get in testing. When you use your powerbook at 2X/16X and put it on your bed or on a pillow, anything that cuts off air circulation or blocks your vents, it may over heat. Also, if you are in a warm environment, the ambient air temperature may be too high to sufficiently cool it properly. This is especially true if it's already very hot from high CPU/hard drive usage.

One person email me and told me that 3 hours of continuous burning on a 12" may overheat the components. I am looking for a source of this information to confirm it.

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Q: So by using this will I melt my Powerbook?
A: Most likely not if you use some common sense:

  • Consider using your powerbook on a table or maybe on your lap, as long as there is air flow around it.
  • Don't burn at higher speeds if you are in a warm environment and/or your powerbook is already warmer than usual
  • Try not to multi-task too much while burning at higher speeds so as not to cause more heat from extra CPU/hard drive usage
  • Take a break between burning sessions to let your system/drive cool off

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Q: So by running this program I can double the speed of my drive for free?
A: In theory, your 8x cd burning speed doubles to 16x and your 1x dvd burning speed doubles to 2x.. If you feel guilty about it being free, and/or are feeling very thankful :) you can make a donation at the bottom of this page underneath the download link.

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Q: I've ran your updater, my system says it's burning DVD's at 2x (or CDR's at 16x) but it's only going at 1x speed (or 8x).
A: This "time-stretch" phenomena happens when you are using cheap media, the drive steps down its speed. Try using genuine 2X media and you should achieve true 2X speeds. Apple 2X media seem to always work flawless (go figure, they're extremely expensive). Some CD-R media, even though rated at 48x or 52x speed seems to be low quality. I've had good luck burning at genuine 16x speeds using generic blank media.

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Q: I've ran your updater, my system is having problems with DVD-RW disks
A: Once again, this is related to the media. A lot of people have reported it to work fine with DVD-RW so they are probably just using better media than you :) I had trouble using DVD-RW too at first, then i tried a different set of media and it works well now :)

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Q: I've ran your updater, but I can't seem to use DVD-RAM disks at all.
A: No one seems to be able to. Toast says it's a DVD-RAM drive after the update (it didn't before). But then again, before the update it said it was a DVD-RW/CD-RW drive. Maybe Toast knows something we don't about which functionality is missing?

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Q: Are there any side effects of using this firmware version?
A: Here are the ones I've noticed and heard about:

  • Several people have mentioned that when the system awakes from sleep mode, it spins up the drive twice instead of once. It's such a minor detail i didn't even notice it myself. I do not think this is harmful for the drive and can be ignored.
  • The drive name is changed from "UJ-815" to "UJ-815A". If you experiences issues with apps that think you now have two drives (one person who emailed me said he had this problem with iTunes), try erasing the preferences for that program. It is usually stored in ~/Library/Preferences. This should solve the problem.
  • Before the update, certain media would have reliability problems. This update seems to actually cause my burns to be more stable now. But the drive does step-down to 1X when it detects cheaper media.
  • One person reported having eject-after-sleep issues of some sort. This also appears to have been fixed with this update.
  • I've had several reports of people now beingn able to use hybrid SACD (Super Audio Compact Disks). Previously the original firmware seems to not handle them correctly. The newer firmware does (from what I've heard, don't have any of these myself).
  • Problems you may have had before the update, reading DVD+RW disks, and possibly DVD+R disks have been fixed. The drive now is more compatible with these media types.
  • I now have more of a life because I spend less time burning and more time living :)

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Q: What about the horrible region restrictions, I've moved from one region to another now all my dvd's are useless.
A: This is one of the most requested features, and I am investigating the options, however I've been told by the knowledgable XVI that the firmware is encrypted, and until we figure out a way to decrypt it, we can't modify it as needed for region-free operations. If any progress has been made, i will of course update this page. Until then, thanks for being patient.

-- UPDATE - December 12th, 2003 --

With a good amount of help from the ingenious XVI, I was able to patch all my firmware updates to bring you region-free capabilities. There are now two versions available on this page.. ones that are region-free and ones that are region-restricted (default).

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Q: I've already ran your older firmware updater and my drive is now UJ-815A, how can I run the current firmware updaters?
A: One of the things I'm now able to do is change what the drive model calls itself. So I've done away with the extraneous A at the end of UJ-815A. All current firmware updaters are only known as UJ-815.

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Q: Your updater says "You do not need this update", but I don't agree.
A: The firmware updater looks at both your drive model UJ-815 or UJ-815A as well as your drive system name DVD-R or DVD-RAM (though it doesn't mean it can only read those kind of disks). If it doesn't match, it will say that you don't need it. You may need to try a different downgrader to get the results you're looking for.

If you've ran one of the older updaters, and your drive is UJ-815A, you will need to run one of the old downgraders to restore your drive to the UJ-815 model you used to have originally, before you can re-flash it with whatever firmware you're interested in now. You should reboot between flashes.

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Q: I flashed the region-free firmware on my superdrive, but I'm still bothered by region restrictions such as DVD Player asking me to set a region.
A: Just because the drive does not care about region-free settings, doesn't mean the restriction isn't enforced elsewhere (such as by software). The hardware aspect is the hardest to overcome. Please read this entire article for the everything about how region-free works. You may need Region X, which allows you to manipulate your drive's region setting without restriction after you apply a region free firmware.

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Q: I purchased an aftermarket Superdrive and it is also a UJ-815 (or UJ-815-B), but Mac OS X does not support burning with through the Finder, iTunes, iDVD, etc.. Can your firmware help me?
A: For some reason, many people think that the firmware is the only thing that is stopping them from using their non-oem superdrives with OS X. Unfortunately this is not the case, and even if you could get the firmware flasher to run (it usually just says "This computer does not need the update."), the drive's drive/model does not change, which is what Mac OS X looks for. The only thing that changes is your firmware revision, which OS X does not care about at all.

I've had a lot of requests to help people get the firmware flashers to work. And while I of course love helping people, after many attempts, once the firmware is patched, Mac OS X still does not accept the drive as "original" and won't allow it to be used natively. That's why I've come to the conclusion that it's not worth trying to modify your firmware for the sake of OS X.

Your best bet would be to contact the reseller (Such as MCE or whoever your purchased the drive from) for a patch. Typically when you buy these drives, you're guarentee'd it will work with Mac OS X. They usually have some sort of patch for OS X (at least they did with 10.2, 10.3 is a little different). If anyone has any procedure/information on how to get the non-original UJ-815's working with OS X 10.3, please email me so all these people can be helped.

One of the visitors of this page told me about PatchBurn, which is supposed to allow native OS X burning of aftermarket UJ-815 drives. There is more information available, but please don't contact me for help with it as I didn't write this program nor do i have an aftermarket drive to test it with. I'm passing along information for the good of aftermarket superdrive owners.

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Now, without further ado...

These are compressed disk images (dmg) of the flasher and an overview readme.
The name of the flasher determines what drive revision you should end up with.

If you do not know which one you need, please check your system profiler (Apple Menu -> About This Mac -> More Info..) and check under the ATA section for which model you have. Then look below and match the one you want with what model it flash (in parenthesis).

-- UPDATE - Sept 11th, 2004 --

I've received a lot of inquiries about the April 2004 powerbooks that come with UJ-825 drives. I'm currently working on getting a region-free firmware out. I also know about the one for the PC. I'll update this page when i have some results.


Powerbook Superdrive RegionFree Unofficial Firmware
For upgraded 2X DVD-R, 1X DVD-RW, 16X CD-R capability as well as region-free behavior
(filesize: 1.0 M)
(Flashes UJ-815 -> UJ-815 X101)

Powerbook Superdrive Unofficial Firmware
For ONLY UJ-815 2X DVD-R, 1X DVD-RW, 16X CD-R upgraded capability
(filesize: 1.0 M)
(Flashes UJ-815 -> UJ-815 D101)


Powerbook Superdrive RegionFree Apple Firmware
For original 867Mhz/1Ghz 15" TiBook & 867Mhz 12" Powerbook Capabilities as well as region-free behavior
(filesize: 1.0 M)
(Flashes UJ-815 -> UJ-815 X0CB)

Powerbook Superdrive Original Apple Firmware
For original 867Mhz/1Ghz 15" TiBook & 867Mhz 12" Powerbook Capabilities
This is an Apple officially supported firmware.
(filesize: 1.0 M)
(Flashes UJ-815 -> UJ-815 D0CB)


Powerbook Superdrive RegionFree Apple Firmware
For original 1Ghz 17" Powerbook Capabilities as well as region-free behavior
(filesize: 1.0 M)
(Flashes UJ-815 -> UJ-815 XWDB)

Powerbook Superdrive Original Apple Firmware
For original 1Ghz 17" Powerbook Capabilities
This is an Apple officially supported firmware.
(filesize: 1.0 M)
(Flashes UJ-815 -> UJ-815 DWDB)


Powerbook Superdrive RegionFree Apple Firmware
For ALL Released-After-Sept 2003 (but Before April 2004) ALUMINUM Powerbooks as well as region-free behavior
(filesize: 1.0 M)
(Flashes UJ-816 -> UJ-816 XXJ3)

Powerbook Superdrive Original Apple Firmware
For ALL Released-After-Sept 2003 (but Before April 2004) ALUMINUM Powerbooks
This is an Apple officially supported firmware.
(filesize: 1.0 M)
(Flashes UJ-816 -> UJ-816 DXJ3)


You may want to ctrl+click on these links if you aren't using Safari, and
select "Download Link..", otherwise it may start loading the binary data in your browser


If these updates worked for you and you are in a grateful as well generous mood, donations to show your thanks
are always welcome. Not only will they be a great gesture, but they'll also help keep this site online.


Old Downloads
Only use these if you need to, they are considered obsolete!

These are compressed disk images (dmg) of the flasher and a readme.
Powerbook Superdrive Firmware Upgrade (Flashes UJ-815 -> UJ-815A D101)
(filesize: 1.0 M)

Powerbook 12/15" Superdrive Firmware Downgrade (Flashes UJ-815A -> UJ-815 D0CB)
(filesize: 1.0 M)
Recommended only for the pre-september 12" & 15" powerbooks.
This is an Apple officially supported firmware.
If ran on the 17" powerbook, you will be restricted to 8x CD-R.

Powerbook 17" Superdrive Firmware Downgrade (Flashes UJ-815A -> UJ-815 DWDB)
(filesize: 1.0 M)
Recommended for the pre-september 17" powerbooks.
This is an Apple officially supported firmware.

You may want to ctrl+click on this link if you aren't using Safari, and
select "Download Link..", otherwise it may start loading the binary data in your browser


(c) Copyright 2003-2004, CYN Cognative Network Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Powerbook, Superdrive, as well as the screenshots of the software iDVD and System Profiler, are
all trademarks of Apple Computers, Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.
The screenshots of the software Toast Titanium is a registered trademark of Roxio, Inc. of America.